2012 Honda CR-V: an upscale, everyday SUV (first take)

With 29 models in the crossover segment, the competition among vehicles is fierce. To make the 2012 Honda CRV stand out from the crowd, Honda has refined its best-selling SUV and dubbed it the "Super CR-V." But does the fourth generation of the crossover live up to its new moniker?

The 2012 Honda CRV
The 2012 Honda CRV Honda

With 29 models in the crossover segment, the competition between vehicles is fierce. To make the 2012 Honda CRV stand out from the crowd, Honda has refined its best-selling SUV and dubbed it the "Super CR-V." But does the fourth generation of the crossover live up to its new moniker?

When you're selling a couple hundred thousand units of a crossover, it's a tough job trying to be all things to all people. Honda built an improved version of a best-selling vehicle that will impress a broad range of consumers, but it doesn't mess with its tried-and true formula.

What makes the 2012 model "super" is its ability to wear a lot of hats. The CR-V provides the efficiency of a car and the functionality of a minivan in the SUV packaging that is popular with buyers these days, says Honda. The result is a utilitarian, but sophisticated, compact SUV with style and versatility that will make the CR-V a good option for buyers looking for jack-of-all trades vehicle.

Updated styling
Honda sexed up the 2012 CR-V exterior with a bigger grilles, a more sculpted body that accentuates the wheels, and three-dimensional vertical taillights. It also trimmed its dimensions a little. Although the width is the same, it's almost an inch shorter and an inch lower than the previous generation, but the interior volume has slightly increased.

The 2012 Honda CRV exterior features a bigger grille and a more sculpted body.
The 2012 Honda CRV exterior features a bigger grille and a more sculpted body. Honda

Inside the vehicle, the crossover offers all the creature comforts and conveniences the savvy consumer has come to expect in a car these days, but no one will confuse the CR-V for a luxury vehicle.

Wider use of soft-touchpoints on the dash and doors make the vehicle feel refined, but there is no burled wood veneer--real or otherwise--which makes it seem modern and understated. The console has been designed to offer more convenient storage spaces, such as water-bottle holders and a well that can fit a small purse, but its low-profile design doesn't won't intrude on your personal space or create a huge gulf between the driver and passenger.

The redesigned interior of the 2012 Honda CR-V.
The redesigned interior of the 2012 Honda CR-V. Honda

Standard Pandora integration and audio text messages
Following other competitors' lead, Honda has made a few tech features standard equipment on the CR-V. The CR-V LX base model now includes Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling, and all vehicles now include a rear-view camera and in-dash display to help visibility while in reverse. The color screen is also used to display audio information, fuel economy, and time.

Pandora application integration is a standard feature in the 2012 Honda CR-V.
Pandora application integration is a standard feature in the 2012 Honda CR-V. Honda

Pandora application integration is also a standard feature, along with read-out-loud text message capability. However, full Pandora integration is only available for iPhone, and the text messaging technology works only on phones that include the Bluetooth MAP profile, which is limited to a handful of BlackBerry and Droid smartphones at this time. The voice-control navigation option is the same unit the manufacturer offers across its lineup, but Honda indicated that a significant overhaul of the system will be announced in the near future.

The 2012 Honda CR-V will read out-loud text-messages. The driver can respond with preset responses.
The 2012 Honda CR-V will read out-loud text-messages. The driver can respond with preset responses. Honda

Upgrade to the EX trim level, and consumers will get a several cosmetic changes, such as color door handles and mirrors, and suedelike seat material. The EX-L trim adds leather seats, heated front passenger seats, and audio features. The navigation system is available at this trim level, as is the optional rear entertainment system. But interestingly, you can opt for either the navigation system or the entertainment system, but for some reason, not both.

The navigation and entertainment limitation could influence buyers looking for a family hauler, but it shouldn't be enough to make families cross the CR-V off the shopping list. Honda seems to be paying attention to just how big and bulky baby gear has become, and the CR-V's design offers features to accommodate all of it nicely.

More convenient cargo space
The 2012 Honda CR-V's cargo floor is an inch lower than the previous generation's, which makes it easier to load groceries, luggage, and strollers. It also adds an extra 1.5 cubic inches of cargo capacity behind the second row where families need it most. However, with the second row seats folded flat, the cargo capacity is reduced from 72.9 cubic feet to 70.9 cubic feet. Buyers probably won't notice that reduction because, thanks to the new fold-flat feature, the cargo floor is 5 inches longer than the previous model, making the space more versatile.

The 2012 Honda CR-V offers a new "one-touch" fold flat feature.
The 2012 Honda CR-V offers a new "one-touch" fold flat feature. Honda

That drop in cargo capacity is due to Honda's new 60/40-split "one touch fold-down" rear seat feature. When you pull the lever in the cargo area to fold the seats, the headrests automatically fold down, second row seat cushions flip up, and the seat backs fold almost completely flat. As an interesting side effect of this innovative system, you'll easily be able to vacuum up the crumbs, lint and loose change that collect under the seats.

Although Honda says it aimed to offer the functionality of a minivan, the CR-V doesn't offer a third-row option. A two-row five-seater is the only seating configuration. For families looking for a carpool vehicle, Honda is hoping to move shoppers over to Odyssey or Pilot.

More power, better fuel economy
Unlike several other competitors, Honda offers only one power-train option for the CR-V: a 2.4-liter engine paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. But it managed to increase horsepower from 180 to 185 while improving fuel economy. The FWD model will achieve 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The AWD models get 22 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

The 2012 Honda CR-V offers Eco Assist to help coach drivers on more efficient driving.
The 2012 Honda CR-V offers Eco Assist to help coach drivers on more efficient driving. Honda

These aren't hybrid numbers--but it's impressive that the CRV is offering sedanlike fuel economy in a SUV. For comparison's sake, the 2012 Toyota Rav4 achieves 22 city/28 mpg on FWD models and 21 city/27 mpg 4WD models, while Ford's Escape offers only 21/23 (six-speed automatic).

To appeal to fuel misers, the CR-V also offers standard Eco Assist and Econ mode. The setting will attempt to help drivers save fuel by reducing driving variability and prioritize energy settings. It also offers driver feedback, and will change guidelines around the instrument cluster from white to green.

But during the short test-drive event held for journalists, that coaching was easier said than done--the lines never budged from white. The CR-V offered a smooth yet nimble ride for a crossover, but it definitely won't feel like you're driving a sedan. At times the steering felt a little loose, and the ride a little bouncy--but again, it's a crossover and not a car. Models equipped with real-time AWD with Intelligent Control System should help the vehicle handle a little better around corners, giving it a more stable feel and ride.

Pricing wasn't revealed, but the manufacturer indicated that it would range from $21,000-$30,000. The vehicle is expected to go on sale December 15.

Correction: A previous version of the article stated that the second row "one-touch fold-flat" system was a two-step process that required the user to pull a strap located by the rear headrests to unlock the collapsable head restraints. That is incorrect. The level in the cargo area will automatically collapse the headrests for the user.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments